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Christchurch foot traffic almost at pre-earthquake levels

Christchurch CBD’s foot traffic has almost recovered to pre-earthquake levels, though it may not be enough to keep retailers in business, a survey by Lincoln University reveals. 

The study said a delay in the redevelopment of the CBD, which was catastrophically impacted by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in early 2011, had allowed suburban competition to become stronger. 

Lincoln University associate professor and property studies lecturer John McDonagh said it raised the question if the numbers would be high enough to support the number of retailers in the CBD and their higher costs post-earthquake.

The survey measured 61 locations across the CBD during the weekend and weekdays. McDonagh said some locations had seen radical changes to foot traffic – with Glouchester Street scoring 700 in 2018, compared to 200 in 2008. 

“This could be the result of an important tourist hotel being constructed in this location in 2010 and this being one of the few central city hotels to survive the earthquakes,” McDonagh said. 

“In addition, nearby New Regent Street is one of the few concentrations of heritage buildings to survive the earthquakes relatively intact and this street also contains boutique businesses that re-opened relatively quickly and are highly differentiated from suburban mall offerings.”

However, the traditional centre of CBD retail on Cashel Mall and upper High Street saw a significant decline in foot traffic, while lower High Street and upper Victoria Street saw increases.

This could be due to some areas not being fully rebuilt since the earthquakes, and large areas of ‘dead frontage’ existing. 

“It is too early to determine if these pedestrian flows are permanent shifts or transitional effects, but the data collected here is interesting and can serve as a base for future trends analysis if the study is repeated at regular intervals,” McGaugh said. 

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